Immune System Do’s and Don’t
Are you vulnerable to getting sick? The strength of our immune system plays a vital role in whether we’ll catch one of the many bugs that circulate each winter and how long it will take our bodies to recover when we do get sick. To keep your immune system in tip-top shape and cut your risk of getting a cold or flu, consider these Do’s and Don’ts:
Eat foods rich in beneficial bacteria. Our digestive tract is lined with bacteria and 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. The good bacteria work to suppress growth of bad bacteria and they also help increase resistance to other infections. Eating kefir, kombucha, miso and yogurt will boost levels of beneficial bacteria.
Get plenty of Vitamin C. This antioxidant helps stimulate white blood cell production and these cells are key in our defence against viral invaders. Vitamin C levels may be deficient among smokers, those under stress and picky eaters. Certain medications can also deplete vitamin C. Eat bell peppers, citrus, strawberries and dark leafy greens as they’re rich in vitamin C. Consider vitamin C supplements to optimize immune function.
Take Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D plays a critical role in helping the immune system identify viruses and bacteria. A deficiency of this vitamin can increase your risk of getting sick. The best dietary sources of vitamin D are mushrooms, fatty fish and egg yolks. However food does not provide enough of this vital nutrient. Supplementation is necessary year round but especially during the winter because of lack of sun exposure.
Put Echinacea and Elderberry on your shopping list. Certain types of Echinacea have antiviral and antibacterial properties making it helpful in cold and flu prevention. It can also help shorten duration and severity of symptoms by blocking pro-inflammatory compounds. Black elderberry is a potent antioxidant that has antiviral activity and can help relieve symptoms and speed healing. Both of these products are safe for those 2 years and above.
Try to juggle too many things. High levels of stress, as well as the things people do when they are stressed (smoke, drink, and eat junk food) can reduce immune function and increase risk of getting sick. Stress can also have a negative impact on digestive health and cause an upset in the balance of beneficial bacteria that are important to immune health.
Get too little sleep. Getting less than six hours of sleep at night can reduce activity of immune cells and increase risk of getting colds and flu.
Eat a diet rich in sugar. Sugar weakens the immune system. Specifically it hampers the white blood cells ability to fight infection. Sugar is hidden in so many places. Aside from the obvious candy and soft drinks, watch out for sugar in juice, condiments, and baked goods.
Drink too much alcohol. High alcohol consumption (more than 4 drinks) can impair immune function by reducing the function of the immune cells. Low-moderate intake of antioxidant-rich beverages such as a glass of wine a day has the opposite impact. So choose your beverages wisely and drink in moderation.